Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Sensible Process

With much fanfare President Obama recently introduced an outline for the federal budget . While I don’t like the numbers he presented, I do appreciate his improvement on the process. Two things in particular caught my attention. First, he’s returning to the tradition of providing a ten-year outline rather than the five years the previous administration used. That gives a better look at the long-range effects of current spending decisions.

Secondly, he has returned to putting all of the expenses in the budget rather than leaving the cost of the war outside the budget. This gives a more realistic view of what our total expenditures are projected to be. Under the previous administration, the costs of the war which were substantial were left out of the budget. We only fooled ourselves into thinking we were in better shape than we actually were.

Now, if we just get the numbers down so that the budget can be brought into balance within the next four or five years I’d be much happier about the process.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sticking With Principle

I find the Republican response to the recently voted stimulus package quite interesting. They are almost unanimous in their opposition, claiming that it’s too filled with pork barrel projects. Yet, where I live all the local Republicans, who seem to control things here, are very anxious to get their hands on the money. Things are tight here in Michigan and the prospect of outside money coming in bringing smiles to even the hardest headed Republican.

What is of interest nationally, is that three Republican governors have stated they will refuse some of the money that will be made available to their states because it doesn’t properly stimulate the economy. They are sticking to their principles they claim and are willing to put their money where their mouth is. For that I give them credit. I just wish the fiscal conservative principle had prevailed during the past eight years when our government was spending money like it was going out of style.

It will be interesting to see the response in the states that are refusing to take the money. Will the Republican legislators be willing to pass up such an opportunity? And what about the voters in the state? Are they willing to take less than the rest of the nation? Each of the three governors are interested in higher office. Cynics think that this is just one way for them to energize their ultra conservative base so they can get nominated for the presidential race in 2012. If so, I say more power to them. It’s great to see a Republican that’s willing to stand up for principle.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hard to Tell

Republicans maintained remarkable solidarity in their vote against Obama’s stimulus bill in the Congress. Coming so soon after the statement by Rush Limbaugh that he hopes Obama fails in his program for the country, one wonders if the Republican congress people have the same feeling and are trying to make their hopes come true.

From my perspective, it is hard to tell if the Republicans really are so hateful of our new president that they’re willing to place the nation in danger, or if they have honestly returned to their conservative roots. Confusing the situation was the action by Republican Senator Judd Gregg, who had been appointed by Obama as Secretary of Commerce. Even though he gladly accepted the position, just a few days later he decided that his economic philosophy was incompatible with that of the President. He certainly knew that before he accepted the position in the first place. Was his sudden reversal because of economic philosophy? Or was he instructed by the Republican hierarchy that his future with the party was in jeopardy if he cooperated with the Democratic President? We will never know I am sure, but it appears that radio commentator Rush Limbaugh has far more influence in the Republican Party than I once thought.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Keeping America Safe

There is no question that there are many evil people in the world who would love to attack America and given the chance they will do so. Many of the actions taken under the Bush administration have worked quite well in keeping such people out of our fair land. I give him credit for that. However, I doubt that his extreme tactics, the use of torture and ignoring constitutional principles in dealing with suspected enemies, has had a causal relationship to protecting America from attack. John McCain, who has firsthand knowledge of the use of torture, has expressed that same opinion.

Information extracted under physical duress is highly unreliable. Under even minimal levels of torture, people will confess to what ever their interrogators want them to. As far as incarcerating suspected enemies for long periods of time without any due process of law, the founders of our republic specifically wrote protections into the Constitution from such actions. They were reacting to just that kind of policy on the part of our colonial masters at the time. Thus, the imprisonment of suspected enemies at the Guantanamo base in Cuba is antithetical to the core principles of the American nation. We certainly can keep our nation safe without violating our basic beliefs.

Unfortunately, conservatives have interpreted such statements as being soft on terrorism. It is true that brutal dictators have been quite effective in protecting their realm from terrorists. However, do we want America to sink to that level? I think not. The founders of our republic wrote into the Constitution methods for determining who is guilty and who is not. From my perspective, as much as possible, we should stick to the Constitution.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Trouble with Promises

When Barack Obama was a candidate for the office of President, he promised to do things differently if he was elected to the high office. He pledged that no longer would the special interests have a major impact on the development of public policy. To that end there would be no lobbyists placed in high positions in his administration. Well, here we are with Obama as President and guess what: he has broken that promise already.

First was his choice of William Lynn for a high position in the Defense Department. And then more recently came the nomination of former Senator Tom Daschle to a cabinet post. Both men have worked at the behest of special interest lobbies in Washington. Now, I don’t doubt that both men are eminently qualified for the positions to which they have been nominated. In fact they are possibly the best in the nation for the jobs they have been assigned. However, a promise is a promise and it’s unfortunate that it has to be broken so quickly in this new administration.

And that is the trouble with promises. They are very difficult to keep. Once made they limit the decision-making ability of the one who makes them. So, I guess the moral of the story is, be careful about what you promise. Hopefully our new young President has learned that lesson.